The topic of face masks remains a heated debate in the Town of Cochrane.

On July 29, a special meeting was called by town council to discuss the possibility of making masks mandatory in town.

After a 5-2 vote, a second meeting was forced to allow for third reading of the bylaw, which doesn't require unanimous consent.

It was decided that face masks will become mandatory in indoor public places as well as public transit in Cochrane if the number of active cases of COVID-19 rises to 10 or more.

While we are seeing more and more people choosing to mask up in town, many strongly believe this is an infringement of their rights.

Local resident Katrina Kitchen stands against the passing of this bylaw. She says that the precedent the bylaw sets is very concerning, and she strongly believes that town council should have held a public hearing to allow residents of Cochrane to voice their opinions on the matter.

Kitchen says "If the council is going to pass a bylaw, especially one that mandates citizens putting something over their faces, they best be hearing from the public before enacting said bylaw.  If they did not hold a public hearing this time, for something that clearly infringes upon bodily autonomy, what will they pass next time without consulting the public?"

Kitchen has taken the initiative to start a petition. She is inviting residents that share her viewpoint to sign it and is hoping it will give town council a push to revisit the subject, this time allowing input from Cochrane residents.

She says "I have started a petition that asks the council to hold a public hearing on the bylaw, allowing citizens to voice their opinions."

The petition reads as follows:

"We, the citizens of the town of Cochrane, hereby petition Cochrane city council to follow due process and hold a public meeting where citizens can give their opinions about the face mask bylaw that was passed on July 29th, 2020.

Mandating the citizens of Cochrane wear face coverings without following the democratic process and allowing said citizens to voice their concerns sets the precedent that the council can pass bylaws that directly affect citizens without consulting them. Cochrane’s city council exists to serve and represent the citizens of Cochrane, not to pass bylaws without demonstrably justifying to the public that these bylaws are needed. 

We, the undersigned, demand that the Cochrane city council hold a public hearing on the mask bylaw within two weeks of receiving this petition."

The bylaw which was passed on July 29 gives Stacey Loe, Director of Emergency Management, the authority to immediately implement mandatory mask wearing in all public places if the number of active COVID-19 cases in Cochrane rises to 10 or more.

Fines of $100 would be issued to anyone choosing not to comply, and the active case count would need to be below 10 for 14 consecutive days in order for masks to become optional.

Kitchen's aim is to collect 500 signatures from Cochranites opposed to the mask bylaw.  You can find the online petition here.